We left Swakopmund, Namibia early in the morning and drove out to the dunes with the sand boards. It was a difficult trudge to the top and I gulped when I got there and looked down the slope we would be using. Too late to wimp out, though.
I smeared the bottom of the board with wax, clipped in my boots and performed the backwards somersault they had shown us how to do to get started. Then I was up on my feet and scudding diagonally across the dune, balancing better than I imagined, and picking up more speed than felt safe. I shifted my weight to try to slow but the board dug in and flung me forward and I landed face-down in the sand and rolled. “Like a helicopter taking off sideways,” someone said when I got back to the top, spitting sand.
I graduated then to lie-down boarding: headfirst on a sheet of ply at the top of the dune, pulling up the corners and barreling down the slope. The guy measuring the speed shouted “65k”. Then the board caught and stopped dead and I buried myself in the sand some distance ahead.